Can I use “How to” instead of “How do I” when I ask a question? And will it be grammatical?
I often notice some English learners use “How to” when they ask a question.
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The usage of how to to ask a question is a direct translation from the learner's own language: it is not correct as a question in English. The expression is used in titles, for example "How to win friends and influence people"
In English, a how-question is formed by taking a normal sentence, making a question in the usual way (by applying subject-auxiliary inversion) and then adding how in front of it.
I get a visa
I do get a visa - add do because there is no auxiliary verb
Do I get a visa? - invert subject and auxiliary
How do I get a visa? - add how
Are you talking of asking some guy
How do I kill an insect ?, versus
How to kill an insect ? ? If so, I believe the latter is not grammatically correct.
How to is used more in titles and such (not in the question form), for example:
How to kill all the insects in your house in less than 3 hours.
The phrase "How to play tennis" is noun phrase. It does not contain a finite verb and is not a complete sentence. It is not a question. It means "the method of playing tennis"
Noun phrases are useful: They can be used, for example, as headings in a piece of writing. They are building blocks of complete sentences
He taught me how to play tennis.
This is a complete sentence with a subject, verb and two objects. It is not a question.
"How" can also be used in questions, but it needs the inverted verb to be a question.
How does he play tennis?
If you are asking the question directly to a person or group of people then
How do I feed a lion?
is grammatical. However we can also be making the point that it's a problem to do a task and say
Ah, but how to feed the lion? That's the question.
Here we are not explicitly asking a specific person for an answer, though in conversation we are open to receiving answers.
I suspect that these two cases are sometimes confused by non-native speakers.
In English, whether something is a question or a statement can depend on its context or delivery.
Sentence 1 is worded in the form of a question ("Have I"), but the intent is to make a statement. Sentences 2 and 3 contain the same text, but #2 is a question while #3 is a statement.
"How to" can be used in a question, particularly when someone is asking a question of themselves (e.g. "How to win?"), but its natural function is to cue a reader to expect a heading or title (e.g. How to cook a potato).